April 27, 2010
The Rise of the House of Rothschild
This fascinating and meticulously documented account gives a detailed and intimate view of political, financial and social forces in Europe just before, during and after Napoleon. The author describes how the first Rothschild, living in the small strip of land behind the ghetto walls of Frankfurt Am Mein, got started in business. The author describes the anti-Jewish feeling and legislation of the time and place and how Mayer Amchel Rothschild and his sons negotiated through it. Prohibited from farming, joining trade unions, and nearly every possible way to earn a living, Rothschild began collecting and selling coins. The author wrote in 1928 -- only about 100 years after the climax of events. He gives some background of life and attitudes leading up to the 1700s, then gives great detail about how money and power were wielded by the noble classes in Europe (and Russia, to some extent) and their defensive reactions to the people's revolt against the nobility in France. We are treated to translations of documents from the era, get the flavor of the times from its solicitous, flowery language, and have a window into the personalities, motivations and inter-relationships of key players -- the Elector of Hesse, various finance ministers, the King of Prussia, the Congress based in Frankfurt Am Mein, the King of Austria, King of Naples, Wellington, Napoleon and more. We read how mail was routinely controlled and opened, how the press and PR were controlled by bribes, of graft when armies were bought and sold, and how nobles used taxes as their own personal bank accounts. The author describes the roles of various leaders and states in the region concerning finance and political decisions of the time. We read how money was valued, transported and borrowed, and of financial instruments such as government debt and bonds. A very rich reading experience.